I squinted in the sunshine. The rays splayed across the cracked concrete beneath my neon pink sneakers. A wide spring sky wrapped its arms around me.
I’ve walked Nelson Road a thousand times. It’s one of my favorite routes. I like the calm. The quiet.
And seeing the cows. I love the cows.
A few miles from my childhood home is Zelinko Farms. They specialize in raising Black Angus cows. I often walk to the cow pasture, soaking in the vast swaths of green that line the left side of Nelson Road.
In the spring, the fields are littered with the big-eyed beasts. The cows now have their babies by their sides: mini versions of their mamas, but peppy and curious and cute.
Wooden poles connected by four parallel wires make a necessary boundary between wild and free. The wires carry a current of electricity to keep the cows contained. From far away, the wires look more floss than fatal.
“Don’t ever touch that,” my dad would warn me. “It’ll shock you somethin’ awful.”
I filled my lungs with fresh air. My nose filtered it first: the scent mixed with one part air, one part manure, one part wildflower. The mooing echoed across the farmland. Big and bold and bellowing. I picked up my pace. It was a beautiful day.
Daisy strolled on my left side, four paw pads ahead of me because she likes to think she’s the boss. (Mistake #1).
“Daisy, wait, by me” I instructed. She halted, giving me a side eye as sassy as a supermodel. She returned to her strut.
Daisy’s bare chocolate neck shone in the sunlight. Dad had taken her purple collar off while she went swimming in their pond down the road. I left her leash in my car. It was fine, I figured. Nelson Road was lucky to see a truck or two every hour. (Mistake #2).
As the trees faded into field, I smiled as my eyes caught the first sheen of black in the pasture.
Yes. The cows were out today.
My excitement shoved common sense out of my mind. I walked faster as I approached the fence, realizing that wow—these cows were super close. The closest I’ve ever seen. There were about 30 of them, huddled in cliques like it was a high school hallway. I could reach out and touch their ears if I wanted.
I stopped to slide my phone out of the back pocket of my jeans. I wanted to take an artsy close up of the cows in their glory. (Mistake #3).
It wasn't until I watched Daisy slide underneath the electrical fence that I remembered I didn't have her leash in my hand.
Everything moved in slow motion.
I saw my dog.
I saw my dog surrounded by cows.
I saw my dog surround by 1000 pound big black cows who had a natural instinct to protect the babies by their sides. To them, Daisy was a predator.
Daisy’s fur bristled then matted back down in fear as she realized she entered an arena where she was not the big dog. Not the big dog at all.
It took one stomp of a cow’s hoof for me to shake me out of my shock.
All I could think was, “They're going to kill her."
I don't know if these cows would have actually hurt her, or if they were more scared than we were. Still, my mind created scary scenarios as speedily as an action movie.
I immediately started screaming.
“DAISY! DAISY GET OUT OF THERE!"
Everyone was operating on instinct: The cows started running toward Daisy. They wanted to protect their babies. And I wanted to protect mine.
So I went after her. Under the electrical fence.
I don’t know if I got zapped then or not. If I did, I didn’t feel it. The adrenaline was too strong.
Now I was behind Daisy, staring at a big group of very big cows with big natural instincts.
Daisy could sense something was up and began to run along the fence line. A large cow, then another, then another galloped after her. The hooves thumped on the dirt.
“DAISY!” I screamed and ran toward her. The cow clique was getting closer, with more following suit heading towards Daisy. Some mooed, sounding less like a happy children’s toy and more like a guttural moan.
This is how I’m going to watch my dog die. I didn’t know if that was true, but my fear fed me these lines and I gobbled them up as I sprinted towards Daisy. She was close to the fence now, cowering as the cows got closer. Tears of everything—fear, frustration, anger, uncertainty—welled in my eyes.
I ran past the cows and finally reached my dog, dropping to my knees behind her. Panic rose in my throat. My hands clasped the fur near her neck. I cursed the missing collar back home on the counter.
“Daisy, GO,” I urged. All that stood between us and safety was a fence full of electricity.
She barely budged, scared she’d get the shock she received the first time she slid under the wire.
I didn’t think. I grabbed the bottom wire of the fence and lifted the wire with my left hand, shoving Daisy—all eighty pounds of stubborn and scared—underneath with my right hand.
She went under.
She was on the other side.
Zaps of electrical current went through my palms and on top of my forearm. It buzzed and burned.
I let go of the wire, then rolled underneath to join Daisy.
We both were back by the road. Everything was quiet.
I sat up and stared at my lap. I gasped for air, exhausted from the emotional rollercoaster we just took.
The cows seemed less scary now as they stared at me from behind the fence. It all felt a bit dramatic, but it felt real. I really thought my dog was going to get stomped to death.
I looked down at the grass. My heart thumped against my chest. As the breathing slowed, I looked to Daisy sitting next to me. I placed both of my hands on either side of her brown ears.
“Don’t EVER do that to me again,” I said, kissing her forehead. “I seriously thought you were going to die. You are not a dud puppy. I get it.” She wagged her tail.
As we walked home, I replayed what just happened in my mind.
Did I really just grab an electrical fence? Did a herd of cows really chase after us?
I stared at my forearm. The red welts and burning blisters said, “Yes. Yes you did, Lindsay.”
“What happened?!” my mom asked with wide eyes as I walked inside the house. My ponytail was matted, my jeans caked in dirt and grass.
I walked to the kitchen sink. I held my forearm and fingers underneath the faucet and turned it on, letting the water run over my skin. The cold water calmed me down as I told mom the story. Activating her nurse mode, she opened a cabinet and found a small white tube of Neosporin.
“Well,” my mom smiled as she rubbed the cream over the baby blisters, “you’ll make a good mother with those natural instincts.”
The next day, I woke up and immediately looked down at my forearm. It was fine. There were small red marks that eventually turned into bruises. No burns so there wouldn't even be a scar.
I replayed the scene in my head over the next few days. I thought about the cows. The fence. Instincts. And fear. Oh, the fear.
Daisy wasn’t scared at first. She wanted to go under the fence. So she did. But the fear of uncertainty stopped Daisy from wanting to go back to safety.
I would have never grabbed the electrical wire out of fear. But something stronger—my love for my dog and keeping her safe—made me throw fear out the window.
Fear is a protector—but it’s also a deterrent.
Guarded hearts prevent broken bones…but it also stops the butterflies from fluttering in the stomach.
Fear stops the magic of feeling, and falling, and living, and loving.
We can paint red flags around the town just to prove ourselves right. “See, there they are! Knew they existed!” while we hold the brush behind our backs. But we can’t wash this blood red paint off our hands.
We can lock the doors. Throw away the keys. Keep ourselves safe. But we often wonder…and press our ears to the wood, waiting for a knock.
We can wrap our hearts in electrical wire. Keep the bad out: the fear of disappointment…the fear of dead dreams…the fear of getting left, or hurt, or ignored, or forgotten, or fired. The fear of loss. Heartbreak. The unknown.
We can keep the bad out. But I can’t help but wonder what good isn’t making it through, too.
How much of our undoing is our own doing? How thick are our walls? How high are our fences?
It’s a process to untangle the heart from the wires wrapped around its wounds. But I have to believe it’s worth it. Sometimes, it’s worth chasing after something. Getting what you want, what you love, what you need…that’s greater than the fear.
So I’ll grab the fence. I’ll absorb the shock. I’ll go after what’s meant for me, even if it means getting trampled or terrified. Burned and blistered.
’ll turn down the volume on the brain and let instinct be my guide. And if I get zapped, well…my body knows how to heal. I can throw the dirty jeans in the laundry.
I'll turn on the sink. I’ll pour cold water on the wound. I'll apply Neosporin.
There won't even be a scar.